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Referral program ideas – tips and best gifts recommendations

Referral marketing is an approach to marketing where customers share their experience about your product or service with other potential buyers, typically their friends and family.

This form of marketing is desirable for many reasons.  

Firstly, it’s cost-effective and doesn’t involve any huge investments. Secondly, it can drive customer acquisition at a rapid pace when executed correctly. Additionally, referral leads outperform other leads by 16% in terms of lifetime value.

What else should you know about this type of marketing? 

  • Statistically, you get 9 referrals for every happy customer.
  • 92% of customers trust referrals more than traditional advertising. 
  • 86% of businesses that implement structured referral programs see revenue growth within the first 2 years. 

When customers are incentivized to refer others to your company, they’re more likely to trust your brand, which increases their likelihood of making another purchase from you.

Effective referral program – what to remember about? Tips and tricks

Before you start encouraging people to recommend your company to everyone they know, you need to do some preparation

If you don’t think about certain steps in advance, it’s likely that you won’t succeed. 

Such preparation includes things like designing your strategy or thinking how exactly you’re going to make people tell others about your business. 

  1. Know your goal

A clear roadmap is always a good place to start. 

It’s important to have a specific plan in mind when you implement referral marketing because it’ll help you focus on what really matters. 

For example, if your goal is to increase traffic, then you may want to offer discounts for referrals that convert into paying customers. 

You can also use this marketing channel to grow your sales, increase the lifespan of your customers, or even improve the quality of your product. Whatever you choose, just make sure you always have it in the back of your head. 

Something that will help you with clearly defining your aims is the SMART criteria. According to it, your objectives should be: 






Use it to create your plan of action and you’ll set yourself up for a journey to guaranteed success.

  1. Use reliable tools 

Once you know what your SMART objectives are, it’s time to think how you’re going to put everything together to get things started. 

You will need a system to manage your referrals and let people know about the opportunity you’re giving them. 

But, choosing it may not be the easiest task in the world. 

Powerful referral marketing software is likely to allow you to perform actions like: 

  • brand pages and emails 
  • import and invite customers 
  • send inbox messages to your subscribers 
  • create various rewards 
  • integrate it with your already existing tools 

It should also be able to help you integrate referral links into all of your communication channels (email, social media, etc.), track clicks on those links and find out which of them work the best. 

Overall, with a good tool you will keep an eye on the performance of your campaigns and make adjustments as needed to increase conversion rates.

  1. Be where your audience is

One of the most important considerations when implementing referral marketing is to be where your audience is. 

It’s crucial that we are where our potential customers are, for example on our blog, so that we know how and when to reach them. 

Other examples of where you could find your existing customers most of the time include: 

You can’t just put a referral campaign on your site and expect that customers will come. You need to be where your customers are and use their preferred channels and devices in order to get them interested in what you have to offer.

Otherwise, all your efforts may go to waste. 

  1. Always be grateful 

In order to make the customer journey a positive one, it is important to make sure that ‘thank you’ messages are sent out to customers who have finished a purchase or interacted with your company. 

There are many different ways that these messages can be sent out, but what is important is when they are sent. 

To ensure that these messages are being sent in a timely manner, it is a good idea for companies to set up an automated system.

Such systems can send appreciation notes to your customers once they complete certain actions, e.g. make a purchase. 

This way, there will be no delay in the customer receiving the message and they will be able to leave feedback about their shopping experience straight away. 

Most importantly, they will want to give that feedback to you because you’ve just thanked them and showed your gratitude. 

Another reason for paying attention to showing your thankfulness is because it can significantly improve relationships with your customers. Happy customers who feel appreciated will be more likely to participate in your referral program. 

Eventually, it will be profitable for you down the line.  Thus, do remember about this tip.  

  1. Pick a good reward

Speaking about making your customers interested and feel appreciated, our next tip for you is to choose the right incentive. 

The use of desirable gifts is essential to improve the success of your referral marketing campaign. 

When marketers offer something that attracts prospects, they’re more likely to make a purchase with you.

To give you an example, research shows that up to 79% of Facebook users will like a product page or brand to get discounts and other perks.

What are some examples of powerful incentives? 

Top referral program ideas for your business – best gifts 

While referral programs are one of the most effective ways to grow your customer base, it can be hard to find incentives that will resonate with your customers.

Picking the best referral stimulus can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. 

There are many options to choose from and we’re here to inspire you with some of them.

#1 Free gift 

Number one on our list are freebies. People love receiving free stuff, especially when they come to them with very little effort needed. 

Remember that giving out your products for free doesn’t have to be unprofitable or costly for you. You can start with as little as product samples, which usually aren’t for sale anyway. 

Then, gradually, you can start rewarding your referrals with more. 

The key is to know how to calculate your gains so that even though you’re giving something for free, you still earn money thanks to this. 

#2 Product or service upgrade 

If you run a SaaS company, a great and highly cost-effective way to incentivize your referrals is giving them a temporary upgrade for their current subscription plans. 

The reality is that it probably won’t cost you much. Looking from the perspective of your customers though, it will give them motivation to refer your business to as many people as possible.

Subscription plans are a genius way to use the power of referral marketing on potential customers too.

When someone new signs up for your service, you can offer them an upgrade to a higher tier of service for free or at a discounted rate. 

In such a scenario everyone is happy: you, your current customers and your new customers. 

This is a real life example of a win-win situation. 

#3 Charity donations

People don’t like businesses that exploit their customers or that are simply greedy. 

For this reason, many companies turn towards charity donations in their efforts to make referral marketing work.

When it comes to charity donations, people may be hesitant about taking advantage of this incentive. 

We can think of two reasons for this. 

One, people may not want to give money away without knowing how the donation would be used – fair enough. Two, they may feel uncomfortable with the idea that their donation could be used by an organization to generate funds without having any contact with the beneficiaries – understandable. 

Luckily, it’s not a problem without a solution. 

As long as you’re completely transparent about your actions, everything should be ok. Try to use your communication channels as ways to provide proof for your donations.

Doing this will dispel any doubts. Moreover, it will add that extra bit of confidence and motivation to your customers that will be profitable for you at the end. 

#4 Discount or a voucher 

Moving on, you can’t go wrong with offering discounts or vouchers, for delivery for example. 

Research shows that consumers are 4 to 5 times more likely to purchase from you when you offer free shipping. 

An important thing to remember here is that free delivery, technically, doesn’t always have to be free, if you know what we mean.

You surely know that there are numerous factors that make up the final price of a product. Why not sneakily include shipping fees in it, at the same time giving your customers the illusion that they don’t have to pay for them?

Whether or not, in the end, you cover the transport costs is totally up to you. 

One is certain, though. Customers do love the words ‘discount’ and ‘voucher’. So, don’t miss out on this fact and take advantage of it. 

#5 Double-sided gifts 

Finally, we have already indirectly mentioned yet another type of incentive earlier – double-sided gifts. 

Double sided gifts are a form of reward that provides both sides of the referral with a gift. 

In such scenarios, both your existing customer and your potential customer get something. 

The basic idea behind double-sided gifts is that when you give something to your referring customer, the person who they promote you to gets something as well. 

It’s a great tactic which promotes building good relationships with not just 1 person, but also with everyone who they refer your business to. 

This is a rapid customer base expansion waiting to happen. 

How to start? 

If you know what your goals are, the first step for referral marketing that we recommend is to choose a tool that will help you deal with your referrals. 

Referrals are an excellent way to generate leads and revenue if you know how to execute and manage them correctly. T

here are various features that may be added – such as the ability to send emails or SMS notifications, online reporting, or follow-up campaigns – depending on your needs and preferences.

A great piece of software is EarlyParrot – an extremely easy to integrate and fully brandable referral marketing solution for SaaS companies, courses, email lists, E-commerce stores and more. 

With this solution you will be able to promote your webinars, empower your customers, make great profits and much, much more. 

Do check it out and test it for free now – we guarantee love at first sight!


Referral marketing is a highly effective marketing strategy for businesses. It’s a way to generate leads and revenue from existing customers, as well as from those who have never been exposed to your business before. 

It’s also one of the best types of marketing strategies because it comes from people who have already been exposed to your brand, so chances are they trust it enough to make recommendations about it to their friends and family. 

We hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new. With these effective tips and referral program ideas for incentives, you will be well ahead of your competitors. 

If you’d like to keep on learning more about referral marketing, its benefits, most useful strategies and more, you should check our blog section out. We offer e-books, how-to guides and useful checklists – to name a few examples. 

Other than that, we wish you best of luck with your referral marketing and we hope to see you in our next article!